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Born Free 14, California, USA

Born Free 14, California, USA

So we went to Born Free, across picture book landscapes under the California sun, full of anticipation of a day of burbling, coughing and rumbling V-Twins, and we thoroughly enjoyed the ride,, saving the space on our camera chips for the awesome moto show that was waiting for us. It's gonna be, the organizers let us know, the biggest Born Free ever.

OK, great. We unpacked our show tent on the shores of the little lake in the Oak Canyon festival grounds. The neighbours were just the same bunch of nice dudes we knew from last year’s show, Cycle Zombies, Max Schaaf, Juniors Handmade … there’s a lot of how-ya-been-ing and nice-to-see-you-ing.

After the traditional pre show party at Cook’s Corner Bar (where an amazing lot of very new machinery was to be seen) we had a hard time refocusing our eyeballs to the world fest of chopper wrenchery the next day.

As expected, words can hardly fathom

the sheer number of machines and the quality and ingenuity of the customizing ideas. The Invited Builders park alone (with 30 bikes) is a top shelf event. If you make it into this show you are in the running for a slot to the Yokohama Hot Rod Custom Show. With your bike. Plus, $10.000,00 are waiting for the top ranked Born Free Builder.

With the number of bikes so overwhelming it was good we had time to scan everything before the gates opened. Our hearts were warmed when we found the occasional part from our shelves built into some of the Builders’ bikes.

Come Saturday, the throng of people was enormous.

The weather was sunny, no cloud in the sky, but not too hot. Perfect. Soon the tattoo adorned California people had filled the place, slowly moving between the vendors’ stalls and the show’s highlights. Chopper alongside chopper to the horizon, between them a half pipe, bands, a special corner for female builders’ bikes, and loads of show events on the stage. The Raffle bikes had to be raffled off too: a ’57 Panhead copper and a hopped up FXR.

High point of the proceedings was the prize

giving for best builder. And the winner is: Wrecked Metal with their 1959 Panhead with just a hint of Ironhead flavor.

It’s hard to underestimate the draw these ancient, sometimes historic machines, painstakingly and lovingly (and with bloody knuckles no doubt in many cases) reworked and customized to the max have on a whopping great number of riders of late model dealership serviced gleaming Harley-Davidsons, coming here for the 14th year to the Canyon of a thousand possibilities. The legend needs to be brushed and polished, so it can ride along on every mile we ride.